Mind if I pontifficate for minute?
On March 20, 2010, the Vatican released a letter from Joseph Alois Ratzinger that apologized for abuse on the part of “priests, brothers and nuns.”
You might know Ratzinger better by his more popular name: Pope Benedict XVI.
The letter was prompted by a report released by the Irish Child Abuse Commission 2009 that documented testimony of nearly 2,000 witnesses in over 200 Catholic-run schools from the 1930s until the 1990s.
Benedict, who became the Pope in 2005, probably never imagined that he’d be writing a letter apologizing for sexual abuse committed by members of the Catholic Church. Now some are calling on him to resign.
It turns out this wasn’t just another unpleasant duty that falls on the shoulders of the Pope. It turns out that he may have been personally involved in some of the events surrounding the sex abuse scandal.
As reported by the BBC, the Pope has been accused of “failing to act on complaints from two archbishops in the US about a priest who allegedly abused 200 deaf boys.”
Back when Benedict was still known as Cardinal Ratzinger he “allegedly failed to respond to letters about the case.” Something known as a “church trial” was halted after the priest wrote to Ratzinger complaining of “poor health.”
For more than 20 years before he was made pontiff, Joseph Ratzinger led the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith – the Vatican office with responsibility, among other issues, for response to child abuse cases.
The Pope is also against condoms in Africa, furthering a ridiculous church doctrine that could help reduce the spread of AIDS. The church preaches abstinence and fidelity yet somehow that isn’t enough:
This is the reality: a married woman living in Southern Africa is at higher risk of becoming infected with HIV than an unmarried woman. Extolling abstinence and fidelity, as the Catholic Church does, will not protect her; in all likelihood she is already monogamous. It is her husband who is likely to have HIV. Yet refusing a husband’s sexual overtures risks ostracism, violence, and destitution for herself and her children.
I don’t know enough to know if the Pope should resign, but I do know this: Some people in positions of trust have gotten away with sexual abuse for far too long. I would guess that only a fraction of them have ever been exposed and even less of them have ever been held accountable. This is one of the greatest travesties of justice of all-time, in my humble opinion. Not only on the part of those who committed heinous acts but also on those who knew and did nothing to stop it or even worse helped cover it up so it could continue somewhere else.
How many abuses could have easily been prevented? Only God can answer that question. The guilt is shared by far too many.
Anyone suspected of sexual abuse of a minor should be treated the same regardless of their role in any church. Period. The fact that church membership helped protect this sort of behavior is unconscionable.
Steps need to be taken to make sure this never happens again. And this time, we can’t leave it up to the Catholic Church to take care of it on their own. They have more than demonstrated than any such efforts are utterly pointless. The entire organization needs to be put on some sort of probation with forced compliance.